A national champion the past two years, the Ellison High School Emeralds dance team is preparing to perform in front of a legend.

On December 22, the Emeralds will open for the world famous Rockettes in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular showcase at Bass Concert Hall on the University of Texas campus in Austin.

Back in October; the president of American Dance/Drill Team contacted Emeralds director Jenny Zehr to offer an invitation from Radio City Music Hall to open for the Rockettes.

“When she called, I said.  Are you for real?” Zehr recalled.

The Emeralds director said she has used the Rockettes to refer to a standard of excellence in motivating her students.

“We’ll never have this opportunity again,” she said.

In addition to continuing to work on halftime shows, the dance team labored starting back in October to prepare for their holiday appearance.

Now, the team members are cleaning up their show, working every day during class twice a week in the evening.

The same attention to detail that is the hallmark of the Rockettes and that generated back to back national championships for the Emeralds is driving the 17 team members to look their sharpest.

“A lot of kicks.  A lot of practice.” is how Ellison senior Elena Conde the group’s lieutenant colonel, described the rehearsals.

“It’s amazing, a once in a lifetime experience.  Everyone is excited and a little stressed out,” she said.

Even in rehearsals, the high kick routine is high energy.  “It’s pretty intense,” said Emeralds colonel Emily Buckley, also a senior.  “It’s worth it though.  We’re very excited.”

“We get to open for a group bigger than anyone we compete against,” Conde said.  “When I first heard, I wanted to cry.  To open for them is the coolest thing ever.”

“I’ve never imagined anything like this,” Buckley said.  “I’ve known about the Rockettes since I was little.  It’s more than I could have imagined.”

Website information indicates the Rocekttes have roots to 1925 when they started as a St. Louis based group called the Missouri Rockets.

Now, the 200 member group travels all over the world preforming for dignitaries ans selling out major venues.

In Austin, they will headline a show in the 2,900 seat Bass Concert Hall at the University of Texas.

The Ellison team is one of five high school group along with the Kilgore College Rangerettes scheduled to open for the legendary group on different performance nights.

Zehr said her team members have taken on the challenge and want to look as good as the Rockettes, which she call “the best of the best.”

The kick routine the Emeralds will perform will be part of their planned spring context routines set to the song “Let it Snow” by Jessica Simpson.

When December 22 comes, Zehr said the packed concert hall alone would be great experience for the Emeralds.

“I think it’s going to be surreal,” Buckley said.  “People will come to see the world famous Rockettes, and we will set the tone for the whole show.”

by Todd Martin – Killeen Daily Herald